The British Monarchy has profoundly shaped Australian political life, despite supporters of a republic saying otherwise, and members of the Royal Family have been warmly welcomed by most Australians since 1867.
Former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies’ description sums up millions of Australians’ feelings when the monarchy’s popularity was at its peak despite his words being described as “over the top”.
“It is a basic truth that for our Queen we have within us, sometimes unrealised until the moment of expression, the most profound and passionate feelings of loyalty and devotion,” Menzies stated.
Queen Victoria gave her assent to the birth of the nation which was proclaimed on 1 January 1901 in Sydney’s Centennial Park.
Prince Albert, Duke of York and Elizabeth, Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) arrived in Australia in 1927. The Duke opened the first session of the Commonwealth Parliament in Canberra on 9 May that year and the Duchess won hearts right from the beginning of their tour.
Australians expressed their sadness at the death of King George V in 1936 and the shock when Edward VIII abdicated later that year to marry the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester served as Australia’s only royal Governor-General for two years from 1945 to 1947. Prime Minister John Curtin believed it would improve chances Britain would maintain its commitment to Australia’s defence during World War II.
Australians warmly welcomed Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh during their tour in 1954. It was the first time a reigning monarch had visited and The Queen and Prince Philip saw more of Australia than their predecessors and visited 70 country towns and all capital cities, except Darwin.
The Queen and Prince Philip travelled by special “royal trains”, by car and plane. According to reports about 75 percent of the population had the opportunity to see their Queen at least once during that tour. Thousands lined the roads or waited at railway stations to cheer and wave flags.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have returned on subsequent visits to commemorate the Bicentenary of Captain Cook’s landing in 1970. They opened both the Sydney Opera House in 1973 and the new Parliament House in Canberra in 1988 as part of the nation’s Bicentenary Celebrations.
Many Australians have been very enthusiastic and loyal supporters of the monarchy even when it’s popularly plummeted during the 1990s and there was a push for the nation to become a republic.
The Australian Republican Movement (ARM) was established in 1991 with the aim of Australia becoming a republic no later than 1 January 2001.
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating told the Queen, during a visit to Balmoral in 1993, that Australians thought “the monarchy was an anachronism”.
The Royal Family had been facing problems at this time, including the Queen’s “Annus Horribilis” in 1992 with Prince Andrew’s separation from his wife, the Duchess of York, and the announcement at the end of the year of the separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Princess Anne divorced her husband Mark Phillips, Andrew Morton’s tell-all book, Diana: Her True Story, was released, and Windsor Castle was severely damaged by fire.
However, Australians voted overwhelmingly against the nation becoming a republic in a Referendum in 1999, mainly because the Australian Republican Movement and their supporters failed to come up with a viable alternative.
Support for the Republic has dropped to an all-time low in recent years. Australians have eagerly welcomed the Queen and other members of the Royal Family in recent times, thanks to William and Kate’s wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the births of Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
The ARM has desperately tried to revive interest in becoming a republic. Most Australians have said there are far more important priorities rather than changing the constitution.
According to a recent article in The Australian, youth support for the republic is at a record low as young Australians are now said to be replacing older Australians as the strongest supporters of the monarchy.
The younger members of the royal family, including Prince Harry, are regarded as great role models serving Britain and the Commonwealth and are seen to be above politics becoming symbols of stability rather than being regarded as celebrities.
Carolyn Cash is a freelance journalist who writes, presents and produces her online show, Right Royal Roundup and lives in Sydney. Carolyn has a monthly segment on Narrabri’s community radio station, 2Max FM 91.3 as the royal correspondent.
Photo Credit: Carolyn Cash